Friday, December 16, 2011

Lessons Learned in Self-Publishing, Part 11...guest blogger Joleene Naylor

There’s an old piece of advice, “If you want to get rich during a gold rush, sell shovels.”

In the world of self-publishing this translates to “sell services to the authors.” This might be editing, formatting, book covers or even high-priced advice. It includes book trailers, and mysterious “associations”. It can mean websites, blogs, promotional services, advertisements, and in some cases even book reviews. Of course everyone offering these services just wants to help you.

Or not. While there are many legit people out there offering quality services, there are a LOT of scams, shysters and people who are just out for a quick buck. I’ve met authors who’ve paid $200 or more for a cover that shouldn’t have cost more the $35, or who pay $1,000 or more for editing or formatting services.

Recently, I ran into an “affiliate” group that cost $50 to join, then another $50 to enter each of their contests. It was packaged as a great promotional tool – but to who? As a reader, I’d never heard of them, and it’s a safe bet that 90% of the readers out there haven’t. Most readers don’t care whether your book has a pseudo award from someone they’ve never heard of. What they care about is that you have a GOOD book.

Unfortunately that means you might just need those editing, formatting and book cover services.
What’s the best way to navigate this maze of confusion and potential pick pockets? Research. Before you hire anyone, pay money to join any group, or sign up for anything, research it. Google search for the name of the person/company. Add the word “scam” after it and search again.  Did you get results? Check their webpage and look for the fine print. Talk to authors who’ve used them. It only takes five minutes to use google or post a query on a message board or to your author friends. 

Many of the authors who get taken for a ride ended up there because they didn’t do the above. As a book cover artist, I’m surprised at how many people hire me without checking out my work or my website and are willing to prepay. Though I’m not cheating them, they don’t know that going in. Yes, word of mouth gets around, but if you’re not listening, how are you going to hear it? 

Here are some simple tips to remember before you pay anyone for anything:

  • Never pay for something you can realistically do yourself.
  • Is this a service you actually NEED?
  • If it’s a promotion, is it geared at your target audience? Facebook ads and other broad tactics seem like a great idea, but their reach is vague.
  • If the product or service guarantees your book will be a success, walk away. No one can guarantee that.
  • Research others who offer the same service and compare prices of at least five companies/people.
  • ALWAYS check the company/person’s website. If they have an About page or a Frequently Asked Questions page then read it.
  • Before you pay to join a group, talk to some of the members and ask them what they’ve gotten out of it.
  • Before purchasing any How To books, check the reviews to make sure the book was actually helpful.
  • Before you pay to enter a contest see how many people have heard of it.
  • Check with people who have used the company or service. Were they satisfied?
  • Never pay for an Amazon/Good Reads review.
  • Never hire anyone if you haven’t seen a sample of their work.

Joleene Naylor is an independent author, freelance artist and photographer for fun who loves anime, music and writing. Check out her vampire series AMARANTHINE and more at


  1. Great advice! Thanks! It is tough to determine exactly what is a good deal and something to jump on. Time will help weed out some of the madness, but hopefully too many won't be taken for a ride before that happens!

  2. Joleene is a winner. Her advice means something, and she's also helped a lot of us with her freebees. Thanks, Joleene.

  3. Great advice. Remember: "Caveat Scriptor!"

    "Writer Beware!"

    Rob Loughran
    Windsor, CA

  4. These are all good advice. I have seen places starting to charge Self-pub authors. I like what Rob said 'writer beware'